The implementation of locally grown beef into David City Public Schools’ Food Services program has gone seamlessly. Actually, Food Services Director Lynn Styskal said she’s pretty sure most students are oblivious to the change.
“The kids wouldn’t know unless we told them. I mean, at lunch they are too busy talking to know what’s going on anyway,” she said, with a laugh.
Late last fall, the public school district stopped using government commodity beef and instead shifted to benefiting from the meat products produced by Linwood-area farmer Terry Papa. So far, two 400-pound ground beef shipments have been utilized by the school and a third is expected any day. Papa takes the beef to the Wahoo Meat Locker and then the final beef product is picked up by Superintendent Chad Denker and delivered to the elementary building in David City, where Food Services is headquartered.
The idea to use locally grown beef is something Styskal said she has thought on and off about for some time. When she took the Food Services director position about four years ago, she attended some specialized training in Lincoln and was informed that Hebron-based Thayer Central was already up and running with a local beef program.
Her interest was piqued; but, it took until this school year for everything to line up in a way that made it practical for David City Public to follow suit. With one beef producer already locked in, Denker noted how he hopes to expand the program.
“Once we get the logistics figured out, we will reach out to other local beef producers to see if they have any interest in working with the school on a fair price for their beef,” Denker said, through an emailed statement. “Terry has been great to work with so far.”
As with commodity beef, Styskal said the district has to follow several guidelines ensuring the ground beef is up to standard. This includes it coming from a meat locker certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and being temperature tested at the Wahoo Meat Locker and when it arrives to Styskal.
“It has to meet the nutritional needs for the students,” Styskal said. “… It’s definitely a better quality.”
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The meat from Papa has been used in all sorts of cafeteria dishes. Some of the meat, she said, has been added to sauces and other foods already containing some meat products not locally grown to beef them up. Other meals, like chili and sloppy joes, are made 100 percent from Papa’s product.
The quality of the beef was noticed immediately when the first shipment arrived. Styskal and her staff made a little hamburger to give it a test try and weren’t disappointed.
“We wanted to test it ourselves and it was good, really good,” she said. “ … It’s better because there’s hardly any fat, I’d say. I mean, you always want a little bit of grease in your hamburger, but there’s no extra – just a very little bit. Other hamburger we’d get you’d have to drain so you didn’t have all that grease and you were wasting a lot of extra pounds with that stuff.
“And the other day we used his for lunch and you didn’t have to drain anything. There was just a real little bit of juice at the bottom and that worked well, because you want that when you cook.”
Styskal said her department already makes it a point of emphasis to use locally grown products when possible. She noted that a few of her employees have gardens and frequently bring in fresh produce that benefits students.
Now, there is a system in place that provides equal – if not better – nutritional options to students while simultaneously supporting local ag.
“It’s just good to promote, and to buy, from local farmers around here,” Styskal said. “And Terry has been really good, he’s been very much on board with it. And we want to get some others to be on board, too, it’s just with the first year of trying we don’t know exactly how we will get it all figured out in the end."
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.